Dental sealants protect the grooved and pitted areas of the teeth against tooth decay. Sealants are thin plastic coatings that bond to the teeth to prevent plaque and bacteria from getting into areas that are difficult to brush. Depending on an individual’s tooth anatomy, these crevices may be more or less difficult to clean. In some cases, even the best brushers won’t be able to clean these areas as the toothbrush bristles may be wider than the crevices. Typically, our office seals the first permanent molars that grow into the mouth at around age 6, and also the second permanent molars that erupt at around age 12.
Placing sealants involves cleaning the tooth, applying a conditioning gel or “etch”, placing the sealant which has a syrupy consistency, and curing it in place (or hardening it) with a light. When talking to kiddos about placing sealants, our office likes to say that we are going to draw a beautiful picture on tehir tooth, or will compare it to “nail polish for the teeth.” While the procedure is painless, we do need to keep the tooth dry , and “staying open” for a longer period of time can be difficult for some kiddos. One of our amazing dentists will consider your child’s ability to be a great helper before recommending placing sealants. After being placed, sealants often have a sticky or tacky feeling. Some children are concerned about this feeling, but it goes away after a day or two.
The sealants our office uses are tooth colored, or a bit lighter than the tooth. They can sometimes be seen in an illuminated mirror, but not from a social distance or when talking or eating. Sealants can last 5 to 10 years, though 3 years is the average. In our office, we check the sealants at every cleaning visit to make sure they are holding up to the wear and tear of our chompers.
While sealants are an excellent tool for cavity prevention, they don’t replace the need for a healthy diet and proper oral hygiene. In fact, sealants can’t prevent cavities in the front teeth or in between the back teeth. So, while we recommend sealants, we like to remind all of our great patients that they best way to prevent cavities is with a healthy diet and routine brushing and flossing!